I’m going to tell you a story about a girl and a mountain. But first, I’m going to say something, and you are going to repeat it. Ok? Here goes…
I am gorgeous. I am wonderful. I have an enormous contribution to make to humanity. I am brilliant. I am strong. I trust.
…. Did you hear that? Or feel that? That tug of uncertainty in your solar plexus? That little whisper of naysaying… almost as though every doubt and fear just rushed in?
You’re not alone. This happens to me too. I boldly declare the love I should feel for myself, and then another voice rushes in to humble me, or declares that I’m not that special, not that important, have nothing to offer. Fear, you are the ultimate darkness. You creep in when there is no need for you, no purpose for you, and truly, most of the time, dear Fear, you are completely wrong.
Could you imagine the boldness of your dreams and actions if you had no Fear?
A few weeks ago, I was camping in the redwoods in Humboldt, with my love. We were on the final legs of our coastal drive up the PCH. Now, let me preface this story by first conveying some truths about me:
I am afraid of large bugs. I had never camped before meeting Jason. I like clean bathrooms that do not smell, do not have large bugs, and don’t involve digging holes or using leaves as toilet paper. Since dating Jason, I have camped every year on our annual PCH trip. I have experienced very unsavory restrooms. And… I have endured bugs, animals, and raw bratwurst.
I have expanded my comfort zones because I love him, and more so, I trust him so much that I allow myself to be moved outside of my comfort zones because I know he would never allow anything truly awful to happen to me.
On this PCH trip, during our planning stages, Jason asked if I might consider doing a little “wildnerness” camping. I am sure his offer had something to do with my offering to accompany him on his dream of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2600 mile trail which begins in Mexico and ends in Canada. I looked at him with uncertainty.
“You’ve camped a few years now. I think you’re ready,” he assured.
“Sure,” I said.. “Does this mean digging holes and leaves as toilet paper?”
“It might mean digging holes, but we don’t need to use leaves,” he laughed.
So. I agreed.
He chose Grasshopper Point, a site which is perched at the top of a 3100 ft mountain. A 6.7mile hike.
Now let me explain the difference between car camping and wilderness camping. Car camping is a nice ranger at the entrance of a campground, a designated campsite, a place to burn a fire, a little picnic table, and a place to park your car in a little space in front of your chosen space. Wilderness camping does not include any of these things. You hike to where you will camp. No fire. No table. No car. And potentially no bathroom.
I’m grateful that I had no notion of how steep and arduous the hike would be to the wilderness camp. I’m grateful too that I had no notion of many things that awaited me at the top of the mountain as well. I had enough doubts and fears. I’m not sure I would have considered myself capable to withstand it all.
Within the first 50 yards of beginning our hike, we stopped for a break. This did not bode well for my apparent lack of endurance. I wore a pack which weighed 15 pounds, and Jason wore a pack which weighed an incredible 35 pounds. It was me that stopped, however. I began the journey wearing a sweater, a tshirt, gloves, a tank top… I peeled layers off within that first leg.
“Does this just keep going up? It levels off, right?” I asked.
“I’m sure it does,” he smiled.
It did not. If anything, every increment meant a steeper incline. Every switchback led to a longer, steeper “UP”.
When we passed a woman and her horse, the horse was fatigued. The rider said: “He’s really needing his trailer after that.” I’m not sure how I thought that a horse was weaker than I, but I smiled, thinking, poor old horse.
At the halfway point, Jason and I sprayed our entire allotment of bug repellant on our skin to ward off the mosquitos. We drank from our water bottles. And we attempted assurances that the worst was over. But No. It was only: Steeper. Longer. More.
At some point during this final leg… I recall him saying: “No more UP!!!”
With just barely a mile to go … my legs could barely move. In fact, I had never exerted so much thought into taking. one. more. step.Giving up, however, never seemed like much of an option. There came a point, when it seemed like such a lot of pain, that it would be all for nothing if I turned back.
When we arrived to the top of the mountain, the “reward” of the 360 degree views was pretty spectacular. Though, the whipping 50 mile per hour winds were quite chilly. The wildnerness campsite was situated at the knife’s edge of the mountain which seemed the worst location possible from what we could see.
Somehow, we managed to set up the tent. And then, after 7 hours of hiking… my dreaded moment. I needed to use the restroom. Fortunately, there was an outhouse at the top of Grasshopper Point. Unfortunately, it was an outhouse. Jason peered into the facility. Not too bad, he says. Clean for an outhouse. Doesn’t smell that great. I walk in, and walk out, gagging violently. He calms me down. Cover your mouth and nose with your jacket. Hold your breath. Surely you can hold your breath while you go, right? Oh, yeah, sure…
I will not revolt you with what occurs to me inside that outhouse. I will only say… When I emerge from that foul smelling outhouse, I march quickly towards the tent. I go into the tent. He follows me. And then …
It’s too windy to cook outside. We make do in the tent. We both try not to consume too many fluids so that we can somehow avoid using the restroom until morning. The wind threatens to destroy our tent, making this tiny little tent turn into a sail. Once darkness falls, Jason takes our food items to the bear canister. Yes… bear canister.
We say our goodnights. It’s impossible to sleep with the wind rushing and slapping our tent to and fro. And then…
“Are you awake?”
“I need to use the restroom.”
I am not, not, not walking to that remote foul smelling outhouse. I am going to endure what certainly contradicts every lady like notion I have ever had about myself … and go in the woods… which I do. Which ends badly in 50 mph winds gusting between my quivering, fatigued legs, as I flash the headlamp wildly fearing bears in the darkness…
When morning finally arrives, I allow Jason to make us coffee, but tell him no breakfast. I do not care about breakfast. I am dirty, smelly, deeply want a shower, and the comfort of brushing my teeth.
The hike which took us 7 hours going UP the day before took a mere 3 hours going DOWN.
By the time we reach the base of the hike where our car is parked, I clap for joy, fling my arms around my car, and give that happy Jeep a kiss!
As Jason promised, we stay in a lovely hotel the next day, as I cannot endure one more day of showerless-ness. And that shower? Best shower of my entire life. Sore muscles. Wretched smelling me. Having braved things that I never in my wildest dreams would have thought I, in all of my propriety and gentleness would have ever attempted… that shower was more than cleansing, it was my reward.
I tell you this story for two reasons.
One. It helps to have someone in your life whom you trust, who expands your sense of exploration and courage.
That was one of the most challenging experiences in my entire life, and I would do it over again. And again. And.. again.
The locals in Myers Flat were amazed when we told them of hiking that mountain. They gave us “bragging rights”. And … I did it. Hiking that mountain, enduring the camping has given me more confidence and glee than I can express in words.
I encourage you to do things that scare you. To test your comfort. To break free of the ideas you believe about yourself. For somehow, doing so, lessens that same fear when attempting the dreams and goals you hold so dear.
From this day forward, I will think of myself as the girl who climbed a mountain, even though I am bothered by outhouses, bears, bugs, and rotten smells… Yet…
Came out smelling like a rose.